Album Cover Fee Story Followup – An Open Letter From The Photographer

Jan 21, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Album Cover Fee Story Followup – An Open Letter From The Photographer

Jan 21, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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UPDATE: this story is now under trial, you can read the latest update here.

A few days ago we covered a story about a couple in dispute with a photographer over ‘Album Cover Fees’. The story went incredibly viral getting coverage on around the blogosphere (dailymail, NBC 5, Petapixel, dpreview and DIYP were among the outlets who covered the story). In all this coverage (us included) there was no deep response from the photographer mentioned. Recently she posted an open letter which we are sharing here with her permission.

This is a classic he-said-she-said story and we are not taking any sides. We do think that it is important not to have the (serious) allegations unanswered, and for the sake of balance and giving Polito a fair chance to comment. We are also sharing the letter that came from Polito prior to the thing going viral that one of the commenter’s to the original story uploaded.

For more than 10 years, I have been serving brides in the photography industry. My company has photographed more than 600 weddings in a little over 10 years. I choose the word “serve” very intentionally because that is exactly what we have been doing. The photography industry is a business that revolves around the service of our amazing clients.

With those 600+ weddings, I can count on two hands the number of significant issues I have had with clients. That is probably less than 2% of unhappy people. I didn’t go to business school, but I believe that a satisfaction rate over 95% during a span of 10 years of doing business is something to be proud of.

That being said, we feel extremely blessed to have been welcomed into the lives of more than 600 families to capture one of the most important days of their respective lives.

Capturing precious moments has always brought me immense joy. During the last 10 years I have felt honored and privileged to have this opportunity, but this privilege has come at a steep price—one I am gladly willing to pay because I love all of you and love serving you. Because weddings are booked so far in advance, my schedule as a photographer is not always my own. My level of commitment to serving you meant that no matter what was going on in my life at the time of your wedding, I would be there to photograph your special moment because I told you I would be. It is that simple.

Commitment is missing your own brother’s wedding for the wedding of a couple you had already committed to photograph. It is having a miscarriage at 6 months on a Thursday, and persevering to show up at a wedding two days later because, regardless of what was going on in my life, this day was about someone else’s happiness. Commitment is missing family reunions, Thanksgiving, and family vacations. It is photographing a wedding 8.5 months pregnant and then hopping on a plane out of the country two weeks after giving birth to photograph a couple’s special day. I am and have always been committed to our clients and their happiness, and it causes me great pain that anyone suggests otherwise.

This brings me to recent events that have occurred. I have received consistent recommendations to “say something” without being emotional. But this is absolutely emotional. For 10 years I have worked extremely hard to build my reputation, and believe that, not only do my 5 star ratings not lie, I have absolutely earned them. Prior to last week, on several occasions this bride had expressed her happiness and resounding approval for the photographs and her experience with us. Indeed, there are several emails that show her enthusiasm for our services and gratitude for the quality of her pictures, yet none of these emails were documented in the recent news story. This bride had posted our pictures across her social media accounts and had nothing but great things to say.

The story you are not hearing is that it was only last week when the bride claimed to realize that, per our contract, welcome packet, and emails, she would not get her wedding images until her album was completed. This conflicts with the numerous emails in which we clearly reiterated what is stated in the contract: low-resolution watermarked proofs are sent to the couple several weeks after the wedding for them to choose their desired photos, while the non-watermarked, high-resolution images are released upon completion of the album. As any of our brides would tell you, we have a very strong policy regarding the high-resolution files, which are not released until the photo album is completed. As a photographer, I do not stand alone with this policy. Although every photographer has their own specific policy and procedure for their business, we do this to complete our contract in full with the bride, delivering the album with their files and having them sign a release form. Once the album and high resolution files have been delivered, we are no longer liable for these images, which is our way of closing the books on past weddings. To suggest that we would hold images “hostage” in retaliation is simply inaccurate. Our intention has never been to “hold hostage” a couple’s images. We have always been upfront and honest.

In fact, over two weeks ago we emailed the bride and stated our willingness to release to them their images prior to having a completed album. Then last week, we also offered to assume the cost of the album cover before the mention of a news interview ever occurred. Although the contract provides when the images were to be delivered, we attempted to make concessions to keep the bride satisfied.

Contrary to the bride’s allegations, our business has been in constant contact with her over the last four months. Her allegations to the contrary are blatantly untrue.

As a matter of fact, I personally emailed her on Wednesday, January 14th to tell her that I had not been in the studio that week but had heard from my studio manager that this bride was unhappy. Although I did not do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical, I apologized to her and was willing to make concessions as a matter of good customer service and to make her happy. I hoped we could move forward. However, this was never mentioned in the news story.

I also referenced a prior conversation that I had with the bride months prior where I expressed an interest in paying her for her services to help with my blog. This bride is a blogger and social media expert with the means necessary to help build a business over social media. She also has the means necessary to tear down a business. That is not an accusation, but an observation.

Several hours after I contacted the bride to make things right by her, I received a text-message where the bride had posted on Instagram a photograph of NBC at her apartment with the caption “No big deal, NBC in our apartment” and a comment explaining, “it’s an investigative story on why we can’t get our wedding photos that we’ve paid for.” Shortly thereafter, I received an email from a reporter at the same local news station. We had taken action to make things right, and instead this bride went directly to the media , bragging about the upcoming news story on all of her social media accounts and creating a very large following, which was boosted by her business as a professional social media expert. Despite representations to the contrary, I was not provided three days to respond to the media story. It is sad and hurtful that she has taken such joy in attempting to destroy a reputation I have spent years trying to build.

If this story were truly based how upset and hurt she was, she would not post statements to humiliate me or harm my business. Statements like, “I’m pretty sure her business is ruined,” “I hope this goes viral,” “feeling excited,” and “justice has been served” are not the actions of a concerned and hurt bride; they are actions of an individual trying to take someone down and instigate a lynch mob of negativity across the nation. To make matters worse, I responded with a lengthy statement to the reporter on Thursday morning because I was out of town for work, and was told in writing from the reporter that “I will do my best to sum up your position to give your side of the story.” In the interview that aired, this reporter only included the very last sentence of my statement completely leaving out key information in the story.

Are your actions truly one of justice? Justice is defined as: just behavior or treatment, “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people.” In my opinion, these actions have not brought any form of justice to either of us.

Thousands of people that I have never met and have never worked with have gone to great lengths on social media to disparage my name and my businesses. The most disgraceful review of them all occurred on Yelp: someone stated, “She gave me AIDS. Photos were okay. 2 stars.” The worst and most humiliating part was that the bride’s husband “liked” the comment. On a different social media site, the groom also called me a cheater and a scammer, and someone who “steals” money from her clients. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of people followed this comment and posted the same words on a variety of other websites, including my business Facebook page, which I temporarily had to shut down. Additionally, on a different social media site someone said to the bride, “two options: 1) We need an address http:/ruindays.com/ 2) We need an address, an alibi, and large plot of land with no questions.” The bride also “liked” this comment.

It is very clear that this small business discrepancy over $125 has gone too far because of ulterior motives.

In order to show my resolve and true intentions, I am willing to make a BOLD statement and request. If any of our past brides have ever felt that they have been wronged outside the terms of our agreements, please let me know. I will do everything I can to make it right. I take my business and your weddings and photographs very seriously. I love what I do and am proud of the clients I serve. If you would like to reach out, please email: PolitoPhoto@Gmail.com

Please know that I can substantiate everything I have said here through lengthy email strings, screen shots, a signed contract, and other documents provided to the bride. The fact that I am not posting them for the world to see is not because I do not have them. Rather, as a professional with a strong moral compass, I will not take part in disparaging another person publically no matter how bad a situation has become.

I do not like being in the spotlight and am a very private person. There is a reason I stay behind the camera. By no choice of my own, I have been forced into the national spotlight to be ridiculed and pressured into acquiescing to this couple’s demands to save my business. To my supporters, thank you for your encouragement, understanding, and willingness to hear the entire story.

Warmly,

Andrea Polito

Here is the letter that we got via one of the commenters to the original post:

polito-letter
Click for a larger version

What do you think?

[lead image by lisa rigby]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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25 responses to “Album Cover Fee Story Followup – An Open Letter From The Photographer”

  1. Ivars Avatar
    Ivars

    Fact that bride is “social media expert” makes me wary and reminds of story about lawyer suing photographer over “bad” images.
    Not sure if photographer is right from moral standpoint and probably not gonna investigate anyway, but this looks like an abuse of power from brides part.

    1. pixeljammer Avatar
      pixeljammer

      That’s one of the most fair and reasonable comments I’ve read on the Web in a long time.

  2. Cher Monroe Avatar
    Cher Monroe

    Sounds to me that a certain bride is just a bitch. Where is her proof that this photographer has done anything wrong? It certainly sounds to me that the photographer has her proof to show that she has done everything but kiss the woman’s ass to appease her.

  3. Gerrie Ferreira Avatar
    Gerrie Ferreira

    Client did not read or understood the deal and is behaving like a child now, pulling rank just because she can. I feel for the photographer but hope this gives him such a good marketing boost.

  4. Mark Holland Avatar
    Mark Holland

    Probably says more about news outlets like the Daily Mail and NBC for reporting on a $150 dispute between a bridezilla and her photographer. Shouldn’t we just leave this kind of thing to Judge Judy?

  5. Rebecca Dalmas Avatar
    Rebecca Dalmas

    Sounds like a horrible thing for a person to do to someone else. I hope the bride apologizes sooner rather than later!

  6. stewart norton Avatar
    stewart norton

    Sounds like someone just trying to get something for free. The only mistake I can see the photographer made was not documenting a breakdown on the package cost. I always email a copy of the cost of their requested package AND any addition cost of add on they may want after the wedding, eg parents albums, album boxes/covers addition DVDs etc.

  7. Marco Tedaldi Avatar
    Marco Tedaldi

    Lengthy answer that mainly focusses on how good they are. I can’t know if all this is true but let’s assume it is true.
    But it dies not really get to the point of the issue:
    Why is there an additional fee that seems not to be mentioned in the contract?
    And why is the photographer not ready to deliver what seems to be already paid without being paid an additional fee? Still sounds weird to me!

    Fact is: the photographer seems to be unwilling to complete the own side of the contract without beeing paid additional money.

    1. Ivars Avatar
      Ivars

      “And why is the photographer not ready to deliver what seems to be already paid without being paid an additional fee? Still sounds weird to me!”
      Did you read her letter? She said, that she has offered that to bride before story hit the news.

    2. PaulB Avatar
      PaulB

      I agree. Always stay professional. The client does not need to hear how good you are. Not from you anyway. Especially not after a conflict.
      A client not understanding details of the agreement are never the fault of the client. Never. The coarse of action in this case would be to suck up those additional costs and make absolutely sure the next client understands all the details up front.

      1. V Avatar
        V

        Paul- so because you don’t understand the law, you can break the law? Sheer ignorance on your part. You don’t understand? Ask questions and educate yourself.

        1. David Addams Avatar
          David Addams

          There is no “breaking the law” here. There is a disagreement about the terms of a contract.

          If you read the written contract, the photographer agrees to deliver a photo album (8 1/2 x 10, with at least 40 pages.) There is no mention in the written contract of additional fees or options.

          The photographer didn’t deliver the album.

          The photographer screwed up when they wrote the contract, and failed to realize it. They are now facing a great deal of negative publicity for not realizing it early enough to cut that publicity off.

          1. sarah king Avatar
            sarah king

            Did you read the part where the photographer states that the bride never ordered an album? Can you imagine the hoopla if bridezilla received a less than perfect album?

          2. Alicia Avatar
            Alicia

            All anyone has seen is the one page of the contract…most contracts I’ve signed are multi-paged and usually little caveats like that are discussed and reiterated multiple times before contracts are signed. It’s very simple, if you don’t like the terms of the contract…don’t sign it! Not to mention the fact that all of this was handled and the photographer agreed to yield to the client and give them their photos and assume the cost of the album cover BEFORE the media was brought into this. No, this is not a “hurt” bride trying to get photos of her big day. This is someone who is a social media “expert” who decided the best way to bump up her profile was to get a viral story going. Now, for better or worse, people know her name and what she does…I don’t think this was anything more than a publicity stunt designed to attract people’s attention. Unfortunately, she did this at the expense of another person’s business and reputation. Now that the real story is out…she’s deleted all her threatening and taunting posts and comments and is trying to act like she’s been innocent in all of this. Well, it’s too bad other people know how to use the screenshot feature too! What she said and did cannot be taken back and I truly hope this photographer takes her and the original news outlet to court over this miserable excuse for a story.

      2. Class Versus Sass Avatar
        Class Versus Sass

        I completely disagree. If you are signing a contract, you should fully comprehend the terms. Not have someone explain it to you, but read and understand it on your own. Good customer service is asking after you read it, if you have any questions and answering them accordingly. I sincerely hope people are not making a practice of having someone explain the contract that you are being expected to uphold to you unless that person is your attorney. No one goes over an entire contract with you in a business transaction, most go over the highlights and expect you to do the rest on your own. And yes, not understanding an agreement you signed is most certainly your fault.

        1. Rona E Philpott Avatar
          Rona E Philpott

          I agree about reading the contract! My contract is simple and straightforward – in fact I have a sentence in there that is a ‘joke’ – I ask if they had read the contract and if they have any questions, I ask them about the sentence with the joke in it – I know if they have read or not at the time. If I get a giggle or guffaw – I know they read and and understand the contract – if not, then I ask them to re-read and ask questions, and will go over with them if needed. As to albums, an album is included in my weddings, a simple beautiful black cover, smaller album – they pick the photos. I do offer larger more elaborate albums, with only 3 choices, all same price – they pick at the time of ordering and pay at the time of ordering – ALL products including their ‘negatives’ or proofs come together at once. They do get to view them online with watermarks at any time. All of this in the contract, written at the end specifically for each client. I would hate to see them take those negatives before they order an album, and have their own album made, and get the photos in a lower quality, which could be bad for me in the long run. I deal with mostly ‘budget’ brides, thus the reason for less choices, without the higher costs – but $150 isn’t bad for a very nice cover!

    3. Jim Johnson Avatar
      Jim Johnson

      I haven’t seen her contract, but since she mentions the contract and various email exchanges, my guess is that it is in there somewhere.

      Her business practice might be a little dubious (extra charges for the cover?), but that does not mean that she is not upfront about it… and she was willing to waive those fees when the client was upset.

      1. Tommy Botello Avatar
        Tommy Botello

        If you’ve ever designed and ordered albums, you would know that certain album covers cost more than others. Some substantially more. Sounds like they paid for a base album which it seems like would cover the time to design the layout, though it is not clear if this is stated in her contract. From the time of the contract signing including package payment, the photog could’ve changed album companies or the album company itself could discontinue cover options (as mentioned in the photog’s email to “Scott”).

  8. fj1200 Avatar
    fj1200

    This is a problem with the internet. One person says something on a public forum and it goes global very quickly. Once posted you can’t un-post, and can destroy a reputation that has taken years to build in one sentence. People like to believe the worst, so side with the ‘victim’. TBH sounds to me like a social media pro (what the heck is that, anyway? How can you build a business writing a blog?) who got a pit power-crazed and needed to boost a flagging ‘business’.

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      oh ‘social media pro’ is a real business. they can either be a social media power user, or have a deep understanding of how the thing work and generate lots of traction on their posts.
      actually, many of the big companies are not running their own social media accounts but using ‘social media pro’s for that.

  9. Jim Johnson Avatar
    Jim Johnson

    If the quotes from the bride’s social media accounts are correct, I have to side with the photographer on this one, no matter what actually occurred.

    No matter how angry you are with someones, no matter how cheated you feel, even if you think they deserve it, I can’t get behind you if you revel in someone else’ downfall… especially if you played a part in it.

  10. doge Avatar
    doge

    The bride sounds like a real bitch. The photographer has a dumb policy regarding their album covers. Conflict ensues.

  11. grace kane Avatar
    grace kane

    Bravo to this photographer for being consistently honest and forthright in her business exchanges. It is sad to see that some will use any and all opportunities to be noted by social media in order to up their supposed rating…of “what” in this case is clear – low character.

  12. TByte Avatar
    TByte

    “The story you are not hearing is that it was only last week when the bride claimed to realize that, per our contract, welcome packet, and emails, she would not get her wedding images until her album was completed. ”
    That is NOT what the client’s complaint was. The client is claiming that their original contract for delivery of an album should have included the cover. And why wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine paying for an album without a cover.
    Note the the photographer never disputes that she tried to tack on an additional charge to the couple that was not in the contract.
    I have to side with the couple, given the information available.

  13. Pamela McLaughlin Avatar
    Pamela McLaughlin

    wow — when you are paying $6000 for a photographer and it comes down to a very gray area — an extra $150 for an “album cover?” I think both sides were wrong but, quite frankly, I think the photographer should have realized early on that tacking on an extra $150 for an “album cover” is ridiculous. And when straight-out answering NBC, she went on and on about how great she was and her personal sacrifices in her job. I don’t really see how that has anything to do with this. Just answer the question: did you refuse to release the photos until they paid another $150 for an “album cover?” it appears the answer is yes.